Parkers to Close After a Long and Memorable Run
By Robin Jovanovich
When Catherine Parker opened her eponymous travel store in 1996, she took local retail to the next level — and beyond. Not only did she sell suitcases, duffle bags, briefcases, and backpacks for every traveler, executive, and student, but she also sold guide books, globes, and coffee table books that inspired us to travel far.
When the seasons changed, she had us covered with sunhats and activewear from North Face and Patagonia, and Penguin short-sleeved shirts we’d <like> our spouses and sons to sport. And when a new shipment of Barbour jackets, gloves, and umbrellas arrived, we were there, before they sold out.
From the start, Catherine knew what Rye wanted — and needed — and she made her centrally-located Purchase Street shop a destination. She stayed open late, unlike most of the stores, to host small gatherings for an author, a local jewelry designer, and the community came out and lingered.
She was there long before Rye became a restaurant row and manicure mecca, and it is sad to imagine that she won’t be there when the dust settles after the annual Sidewalk Sale at the end of the month.
“This was my dream,” acknowledged Parker in a conversation in her store last week.
“It was ours, too,” we said, adding that she invited us to shop local and we did. No malls or Amazon Prime for us.
Looking back, Parker enjoyed talking about being young when she opened the store. “I didn’t even know my husband yet!”
Nor had she yet raised two children, restarted the Rye Chamber of Commerce, headed up the League of Women Voters of Rye, Rye Brook, and Port Chester and The Rye Arts Center, much less been elected to the Rye City Council and then to the Board of Westchester County Legislators.
After we noted just a handful of the organizations she’s served, Parker said matter-of-factly, “I was raised to jump in. It’s the fabric of our family. My mother was a teacher, my grandmother a nurse.”
She approaches everything that she does in the same purposeful manner as a work-in-progress.
The last three years, juggling serving as a Legislator with owning a retail business, in a declining bricks and mortar retail environment, has been her biggest challenge — even bigger than cleaning up and reopening the shop after two major floods.
“Trust me when I tell you that being a Legislator is not a part-time job,” she reported.
At least not for Parker, who is the first to pitch in and the last to turn out the light.
Parker said she is not as sad as she knows she will be when she closes the door at 43 Purchase Street for the last time.
But she is glad to be going out on a high and is looking forward to the next chapter of her life.
In the next few weeks, she says she’s hoping to catch her breath before her daughter, Julia, is off to college. The family (husband David Walker, 10-year-old Aidan) looks forward to driving Julia to Pittsburgh in mid-August.
“I am truly looking forward to the next chapter of my life,” said Parker. “Who knows, I may try one full-time job at some point.”